dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

Why do people say 'after dark' when what they mean is 'during dark'? After dark would be when it's light again, right? * There are 10 types of people in this world -- those who read binary, and those who don't. * I'm rethinking the whole brown rice thing. What if it's just more white liberal self-hatred? Whole wheat, honey, unbleached flour. All better. Sez who? * Eugene should be HQ for White People for Diversity. We'll fight for diversity to be included in books, which is where we know to look for it. * Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, but give a man a pillow, and he'll dream of steak. * What can you say about a state that puts the town of North Bend 225 miles southwest of Bend? We rely on visitors for entertainment.

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… Name Calling …

September 11th, 2014 · No Comments

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If we can’t agree what to call our enemies, how can we unite to defeat them? I’ve heard them called ISIS, ISIL, the Islamic State and the so-called Islamic State. Of all the options, President Obama continues to use the wonkiest and least popular — ISIL. He did the same when talking to us about “Pockeeston.” It makes him seem peeved that we can’t speak correctly. (Other examples.) When he wants us to think like him, I wish he was willing to talk like us.

→ No CommentsTags: Deep · Psycho · Pure Pol · Quips

… Name Calling …

September 11th, 2014 · No Comments

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If we can’t agree what to call our enemies, how will we unite to defeat them? (We’ve still not settled on a single spelling for al-Qaeda.) I’ve heard them called ISIS, ISIL, the Islamic State, and the so-called Islamic State. Of all the options, our president uses the wonkiest and least used (ISIL), as if he’s schooling us. He did the same with Pockeeston.) I wish he was willing to talk like us when he’s asking us to think like him. Other examples.

→ No CommentsTags: Deep · Pure Pol · Quips

City Hall Dilemma: Standing For vs. Standing In The Way

September 10th, 2014 · No Comments

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Eugene’s City Hall has become a victim of its own successes. The city’s design competition in the late 1950s wanted a city hall that fit the community and fit the times. The winning design did both splendidly, bending the rules along the way.

As thoroughly modern as the building was in the early 1960s, that’s how out of step it has become with today’s design and culture zeitgeists. It’s a paisley-printed Nehru jacket of a building. Perfect for then; not so good for now.

Eugene’s proposed new City Hall will be radically more accessible to the public. Instead of red cedar slats surrounding the perimeter, the current design calls for as much glass as you would expect from an Apple Store. The new building will not be where secrets are kept. We now prefer the people’s work to be done in full view of the people.

Fifty years ago, we thought nothing of navigating a few stairs to gain entrance into a space. It was the age of sunken living rooms and split-level ranch houses. We were a young and ambitious people. We were going to the moon! A few stairs weren’t going to keep us back.

But something changed. (It always does.) We got older, slower, more sensitive.

Those few steps at the entrance of City Hall began to mean something different to us. We saw them as unfriendly, and then insensitive. We see them now as a barrier, akin to the posts standing sentry around City Hall’s perimeter. We prefer buildings that not only meet us at the street, but that purposely spill their energy onto the sidewalks around it.

John Stafford and his partners designed a building two generations ago that gave the city more than it asked for. It was celebrated for its inventiveness and authenticity, and deservedly so. The competition’s criteria called for a single story building at grade with the street. No one else seemed to notice that the terrain slopes downward as the block stretches south.

The competition did not require that the single story building be “at grade with the street” at every point — only at some point. Stafford bent the rules of the competition and provided nearly a full block of sunken parking beneath the building. It was deemed a brilliant bending of the rules.

Daylighting along the edges allowed light into the garage. That also looks different to us now. Architecture professor John Reynolds recently likened it to a moat surrounding the building. Perceptions have changed and the building has not adapted.

If you wonder why downtown and campus have suddenly boomed, the removal of steam heat has been the hidden force. Almost-free heating kept many older buildings economical for decades. A couple of years ago, that hidden subsidy for the status quo ended. Single-pane windows are less tenable when heat must be purchased at market rate.

Finally, City Hall’s location has become its largest liability. As buildings around it are popping up at four or five stories, its squat presence now seems a precocious waste of a full city block. It stands in the way of where we’re developing and how we’re developing.

Around and through it all, we prefer now what we call “complete streets,” with activity that encourages walking and biking. Our love affair with the automobile continues, but our fidelity to it does not.

A building with no viable street presence has become a barrier to our “return to the river.” Unfortunately for this building, that return is impeded by this relic of Kennedy-era romanticism. We don’t dislike what this building stood for — only what it’s standing in the way of.

The building itself has a charm worth preserving, like the one room in our house that still has shag carpeting. It reminds us of our youth. But it cannot stay where it is.

In this way, it’s the Skinner Butte cross controversy all over again. And we know how that controversy was finally resolved. If New Hope Christian College would like to move this wonderful building to its southwest hills campus, our problem would be solved.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs

→ No CommentsTags: Arr-Gee published · Civic · Urban Design · You-gene

What’s All the FFFFUFFF About?

September 10th, 2014 · No Comments

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Fifth Friday Footnotes, Follow-ups and Far-Flung Fripperies:
• Bad summer weather in Eugene is better than good summer weather almost anyplace else.
• I’m starting to feel bad for those who haven’t been challenged to pour a bucket of ice over their heads, like the last kids picked for teams in gym class.
• No matter what it is, it seems I want it thicker.
• I got a Murphy Bed, but it’s not working out for me. I’m not one of those who can sleep standing up.
• IKEA shows that Americans really don’t dislike cheap imported goods, so long as they think it must have come from a “cool” (white) country.
• Americans now require more comfort than copious helpings of comfort food can provide. Waddle we do about it?
• I’m imagining a tragic love story between a kitchen sponge and toast — so alike, and yet so different.
• I worry about people who use the word “awesome” like conversational table salt. If everything is awesome, will they lose their taste for awe? When awe is genuinely evoked, what word will they use?
• I know it’s been 40 years, but every time I see a cement truck on the road, I think it’s driving backwards.
• Has anyone studied the effect of carbonation on the mouth? I wonder if it somehow contributes to addiction. The sensation is so peculiar, completely apart from taste itself. It feels like trouble — or is that excitement I feel?
• Are there any Americans who do not prefer their pasta al dente? It’s time to stop pretending that some like their macaroni mushy.
• Just because it fits doesn’t mean it belongs.
• I’ve only recently discovered parchment paper. My children are surprised. They believe I grew up when our only paper was parchment — and all our glue was edible. Parchment paper got neglected during our fling with Teflon. It’s sturdy but not sticky. Whatever the world’s ills, parchment paper is part of the solution.
• Don’t ever try to sleep in a hurry.
• Only in Eugene would they erect a five-story-tall sign that reads “13th & Olive” and place it at 12th & Willamette.
• What will people push when we run out of envelopes?
• None of us wash our vegetables like we mean it.
• People don’t understand that all heat is motion. Making stuff move faster and more changes it, whether it’s the air in a room or the soup in a pot.
• I believe all genius is generosity plus valor. “Giving it all you’ve got” is perilous, but some have no choice. Thanks, Robin.
• We can’t make ourselves taller. But we can become deeper.
• Something went terribly wrong after Rocky Road became an ice cream flavor. Until then (saltwater taffy notwithstanding), edibles were given appetizing names. Why did we invite such complexity and confusion?
• We all should ask more questions — of ourselves and of one another.
• Put “gritty” back into “integrity.”
• Our parents thought twist ties would make the world better. They did, but only a little.
• We often end up captive to our measurements.
• We manage our lives with two lists. Those things which we do not know, and those things which we do not want to know. Sadly, for some those lists are the same.
• Life isn’t perfect. It’s pluperfect. We mostly look forward to looking back.
• Those who twist the doorknob while closing a door are better than the rest of us. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s exactly the point.
• If the line waiting for your counter service runs parallel to your counter, those in the line are not only your imminent customers. They’re also your immediate audience.
• Most of us become convinced way before we become certain.
• We’ve stopped waiting for one another. Of all our idle moments being sopped up with smart phone distractions, these may be the most valuable ones we’re losing.
• I think we can all agree it’s time to rename pipe cleaners. Suggestions?
• Don’t leave the hemorrhoid ointment tube near your toothpaste. Just don’t. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will.
• Questions unasked remain unanswered.
• I no longer know all that I knew.
• Nothing prevents people from being loved more than their uncontrolled desire to be liked.
==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs

→ No CommentsTags: Arr-Gee published · Grins · Quips

President Needs More Vacation, Not Less

September 10th, 2014 · No Comments

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Please, Mr. President, take a real vacation.

I’m sure you’ve had time to relax on the golf course and enjoy an evening or two with old friends during your couple of weeks at Martha’s Vineyard. Necessary, but not sufficient.

These outings provide diversion, but not release. You cannot do what a true vacation allows. You cannot lose yourself. You cannot vacate. If you did manage to lose yourself, there’s an entire squadron of Secret Service personnel on the other side of that door, ready and able to go find you.

If you ask some of the business tycoons who are your neighbors this week, they’ll tell you how valuable they find it to take a break once in a while, to let the spring come unsprung. And they are managing enterprises somewhat less complicated than the World As We Know It, which is your daily responsibility.

I once had a newspaper publisher tell me why he hired his best people to work the night shift. “I’ll give it all I’ve got, all day long,” he said, without an ounce of resentment, “but after 8 PM, the biggest decision I’m making is ‘red or white?’” Many insist that their only real opportunity to think deeply comes when their toes are in a pool and their phones are turned off.

And they don’t work from a home office!

When you campaigned for president, you said your goal would be to have a presidency that “changes the trajectory of America,” like Ronald Reagan’s. The media grabbed hold of the next phrase, which suggested that Bill Clinton’s presidency had been something less.

Reagan knew how to step away from the pressures. Whether it was horseback riding in California or napping upstairs in the White House, he wasn’t the workaholic that all our recent Democratic presidents have been.

He also was shot. Remember when Alexander Haig proclaimed, “I’m in charge now”? That became the lead in Haig’s New York Times obituary, but the point here is that Reagan, for a short time, was not in charge. By his own account, those moments “not in charge” changed him. He returned to the White House with a deeper resolve.

Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until you let it go, even for a brief time. You’ve got the most important job in the world. We all hope you’ll have a long life ahead to reflect on what you could accomplish. But reflecting doesn’t have to wait until after it’s over.

Focusing on the task at hand is essential, but limiting. Every decision is linked to what came before and what likely will follow. There are no starting or ending points. Everything must be continued, all the time. (That was your complaint against Clinton’s less-than-consequential tenure.) Managers strive for incremental improvements. Leaders plant a flag in the future.

Hand off the nuclear football to Vice President Biden for a few days. We’ve learned to call them “mental health days” — where you don’t know what’s not working, but something is definitely out of whack. That sort of break might give you what Reagan experienced on that operating table in March 1981.

Freed from “the tyranny of the urgent,” your famously deep thoughts will waft away from “what now?” and “what next?” — and toward “what for?” How would you like to be remembered? What would you like to try to change, not a little bit at a time, but all at once?

Would the son of a Kansas woman and a Kenya man like to address racial tensions in Missouri and America? Would the former Harvard Law Review president like to set a policy directive for drones in warfare that the world will follow? Would the Constitutional Law professor like to force Congress to again accept responsibility for declaring America’s wars? Would the father of two young girls like a legacy built around gender equality? Would the former community organizer like to organize some specific aspect of community?

These are questions to be answered first by the man you are, not the position you hold. They can’t be answered from your home office.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs

→ No CommentsTags: Psycho · Pure Pol · Upper-Left-Edge

Comfort from Pizza and Five-Digit Dialing

September 10th, 2014 · No Comments

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I came to Eugene the same week the 503 area code left. Except for a brief stint in California, I spent the previous decade one step ahead of states with multiple area codes.

I left Chicago around the time the 312 area code had to be reserved only for Chicago. I hightailed it then to a small state, calculating that 203 would suffice for a state as small as Connecticut. But it wasn’t long before I heard 10-digit rumblings there too.

My short stay in California should have acclimated me to longer phone numbers, but it did just the opposite. I came to Oregon pining for the simple days of my childhood. My best friend’s phone number was TW4-6321. Our number was TW4-6277.

It’s never occurred to me until today that our numbers were separated in sequence by 44. For all I know, the phone company assigned sequential numbers for all the residents in our neighborhood, arranging everyone into a single numbering line. Times were simpler then.

Nobody was confident that seven digits could be remembered, so the first two numbers were expressed with a word. Everyone’s number in my young world started with Twinbrook-4 or Lasalle-9. It must have worked, because I remember that number still. Neither of my sons remember their first phone number.

I remember the hushed tones of scandal when our phone got disconnected and then restored when I was in high school. Our new number started with “882.” We could be branded as newcomers, even though we had been one of the first families to move onto the block.

Area codes were not used and never thought about. You needed an area code only when you had to tell somebody far away about a death.

Who would have guessed that five-digit phone numbers would become such a mental comfort food? Not to be confused with the ultimate comfort food — pizza — which is what I was seeking last week.

I walked into Big Slice Pizza on 13th Avenue not looking for anything new-fangled. (Are all things fangled always and forever new?) My California years got exotic pizza experiments out of my system.

My brother’s confession applies to our whole family. “When it comes to pizza,” he tweeted, “I’m all heel and no Achilles.”

The Big Slice slice was big, and good. Capstone student housing looms over the location. They won’t struggle to find customers. I took the take-out menu home, and there it was, staring back at me.

I’d been hearing about it for years. I was warned it was coming. I always thought it would arrive tomorrow, or any of my many tomorrows. I didn’t think it would ever burst into my only “today.”

The pizzeria’s phone number starts with 458, and then seven more numbers after that. Eugene’s second local area code has arrived.

I called Glenn Eitelman, the owner.

“Yeah, I freaked,” he told me. “I had an anxiety attack. I said ‘Ya gotta be kidding me!’” (As an aside, you should be able to guess from that sentence what sort of pizza Glenn is selling — East Coast style, thin crust.)

He continued. “I think I’m the first one to have the 458 area code. But it turns out, it’s no big deal. Everybody’s cell phone numbers are from all over the place.”

“Yesterday a couple came and Caller ID said they were from Ohio, so I asked them, ‘Are you visiting?’ — nah, they live two blocks away. I always watch Caller ID when orders come in.”

I had to ask: “Have you seen a 458 number come in yet?”

“No.”

Eitelman’s anxiety attack brought back my high-school angst. His number will make him seem the newcomer in town, even though he’s lived and cooked here for decades. But times have changed. It might actually work in his favor, come to think of it. People now favor “new” — since marketers have successfully conjoined “new” and “improved.”

New was considered a stigma in the early 1960s. Now it’s the other way around. Back then, we didn’t trust anything we suspected had been fangled.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs.

→ No CommentsTags: Arr-Gee published · Deep · Psycho · You-gene

How to Succeed as a University President (unpublished)

August 15th, 2014 · 5 Comments

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[Note: I offered the newspaper two versions of this essay. One speculated how final conversations might have gone, and this one did not. This is the version they did not choose to publish.]

Nobody would ever suggest that the job of a university president is an easy one, especially at the University of Oregon, and especially lately. Balancing the competing constituencies has been expressed succinctly. “To keep everybody happy, you have to make sure that alumni are getting enough football and basketball, students are getting enough sex, and faculty is getting enough parking.”

Sure, it sounds simple. Nobody told me what happens when the needs for basketball and sex collide. Apparently, nobody told Gottfredson either.

On July 1, the state relinquished control of the university to an independent Board of Trustees. Wresting control from the state has been the long-term vision for the University of Oregon. It will be considered Gottfredson’s signature accomplishment.

George Pernsteiner, who was Chancellor of the Oregon University System, and the man who fired Richard Lariviere in 2011, has moved to Colorado, where’s he’s now president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. Lariviere has moved on to be president of The Field Museum in Chicago.

These two powerful men are out of each other’s lack of hair. But here in Oregon, the search for a peaceable kingdom continues.

Last week, the University of Oregon Board of Trustees convened to accept UO President Michael Gottfredson’s resignation and to approve a $940,000 severance package for the absent and abruptly departed president.

Afterwards, board chairman Chuck Lillis insisted that both actions were voluntary and not interdependent. An exasperated public sighed, “Yeah, right.”

Gottfredson’s resignation letter was oddly not on University of Oregon letterhead. His signature omitted at least one of the letters in his name. It cited a trope as tired as the man must have been after the last few days he’d had. Gottfredson claimed his desire for more “time with family” to be the cause for his resignation.

Family time must have become suddenly urgent, because he gave the university one day’s notice. (I’m sure International Excuse Guidelines, if such a thing exists, must recommend some reference to “health concerns” when a resignation is paired with a sudden departure.)

If his scholarship were in literature instead of criminology, he might have quoted Robert Frost’s “The Death of the Hired Man”:

Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
I should have called it something you somehow haven’t to deserve.

Returning to a place where you are loved without conditions — that’s a universal desire. Professors often have the academic equivalent in tenure. Published reports claim Gottfredson’s tenure at the California university he departed two years ago was about to lapse, so that may have been the “scholarly interests” that “beckoned” him. We may never know.

We also may never know whether the Board of Trustees was displeased with their president. It may have been simply that they were given power to hire and fire their university president and they intended to use that power.

Willfully ignored last week was an odd coincidence. Forty years ago last week, headlines blared with the most famous resignation in American history. Richard Nixon also gave only one day’s notice.

Gottfredson was “not available” for comment beyond letters he wrote to the board and to the UO at large. Again, it provided a notable contrast with Lariviere, who sat for nearly an hour with the Oregon Daily Emerald’s reporters for a televised interview.

Gottfredson’s departure reminded me instead of a man still in university leadership and still under severe pressure.

When news broke in 2010 that Dana Altman was leaving Creighton after 16 years to become the head coach for the University of Oregon men’s basketball team, he tried to evade the press corps by taking a back door into the parking garage. A television news crew intercepted him there, where he had no comment.

“No comment” sometimes comments powerfully.

One of Gottfredson’s final acts as president was to appoint one of his campus allies to serve as the university’s Faculty Athletics Representative for the NCAA. Sports must have been on his mind when he wrote his final letter to the university, which ended with “Go Ducks!”

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs

→ 5 CommentsTags: Civic · Deep · Media · You-gene

UO President Quit? Yeah, Right

August 15th, 2014 · 3 Comments

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Planning a trip to Chicago last month, I tried to catch up with former University of Oregon president Richard Lariviere. His first few months were rocky as the president of one of the world’s finest research museums, but The Field Museum seems now on better footing, and so does its president.

My request was denied. His wife Jan put it this way in a Facebook message: “We want to leave Eugene totally to the new administration. We hear things are going well at UO and we are very pleased.”

That was in April. On July 1, Lariviere’s central goal for the University of Oregon was accomplished. The state relinquished control of the university to an independent Board of Trustees. George Pernsteiner, who was Chancellor of the Oregon University System, and the man who fired Lariviere, has moved to Colorado, where’s he’s now president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

These two powerful men are out of each other’s lack of hair. But here in Oregon, the search for a peaceable kingdom continues.

Last week, the University of Oregon Board of Trustees convened to accept UO President Michael Gottfredson’s resignation and to approve a $940,000 severance package for the absent and abruptly departed president.

Afterwards, board chairman Chuck Lillis insisted that both actions were voluntary and not interdependent. An exasperated public sighed, “Yeah, right.”

Gottfredson’s resignation letter was oddly not on University of Oregon letterhead. His signature omitted at least one of the letters in his name. It cited a trope as tired as the man must have been after the last few days he’d had. Gottfredson claimed his desire for more “time with family” to be the cause for his resignation.

Family time must have become suddenly urgent, because he gave the university one day’s notice. (I’m sure International Excuse Guidelines, if such a thing exists, must recommend some reference to “health concerns” when a resignation is paired with a sudden departure.)

Lillis told reporters he learned of the president’s intended departure only a few days earlier, in a phone call. Reporters cannot speculate about a private conversation, but columnists can. Here’s how that conversation might have gone.

CL: We’d like you to leave.

MG: The Oregon University System extended my contract through June 2016.

CL: We could pay you for those two years.

MG: Is that a threat or a bribe?

CL: (silence)

MG: I don’t want to have to answer any questions.

CL: This will be just between you and me.

MG: My contract requires that I give 30 days’ notice.

CL: That won’t be necessary.

MG: (silence)

CL: I’ll look for your letter later today.

Now imagine how the same conversation must have gone between Pernsteiner and Lariviere in 2011.

GP: We want you to go.

RL: We all want things we cannot have.

GP: (silence)

RL: (silence)

Lariviere was fired. Gottfredson quit. But it sure didn’t look that way.

Willfully ignored was an odd coincidence. Forty years ago last week, headlines blared with the most famous resignation in American history. Richard Nixon also gave only one day’s notice.

Gottfredson was “not available” for comment beyond letters he wrote to the board and to the UO at large. Again, it provided a notable contrast with Lariviere, who sat for nearly an hour with the Oregon Daily Emerald’s reporters for a televised interview.

Gottfredson’s departure reminded me instead of a man still in university leadership and still under severe pressure.

When news broke in 2010 that Dana Altman was leaving Creighton after 16 years to become the head coach for the University of Oregon men’s basketball team, he tried to evade the press corps by taking a back door into the parking garage. A television news crew intercepted him there, where he had no comment.

“No comment” sometimes comments powerfully.

One of Gottfredson’s final acts as president was to appoint one of his campus allies to serve as the university’s Faculty Athletics Representative for the NCAA. Sports must have been on his mind when he wrote his final letter to the university, which ended with “Go Ducks!”

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs

→ 3 CommentsTags: Arr-Gee published · Civic · Deep · You-gene

Inventive Solution “Corners” Venerable Business

August 8th, 2014 · 1 Comment

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When Pat Brooks reopens her family’s florist shop at 13th and Patterson in September, the name won’t be changed to Eugene’s Flower Condominium, but that wouldn’t be inappropriate.

After a couple of years in a temporary location on Harlow Road (which they now intend to keep), Brooks and her family soon will return Eugene’s Flower Home to the corner their business has always known. But now their shop will have 18-foot ceilings, brand new construction, and 100 student apartments overhead.

Brooks returned to Eugene in 1952 to help her father run his florist business. She has worked that business every day since. Now her son and daughter are partners and a granddaughter works there part-time while she finishes her degree at Oregon State University.

Situated near University of Oregon campus and Sacred Heart Hospital, they have always benefited from their prime location. But flowers are sold everywhere nowadays. Competition has multiplied. Sending flowers has gotten easier. Proximity matters less than it used to.

When local attorney-turned-developer Dan Neal approached Brooks about selling her building on that corner to make room for a student housing project, Brooks was equal parts polite and reticent. That location has fed her family since 1922, now beginning their fourth generation.

Neal’s project would have enveloped their small building and parking lot if Brooks decided not to sell. The surrounding building would have been five stories tall in the shape of an L, with frontage on both 13th Avenue and Patterson Street. Architect Paul Dustrud was working around the problem. Nobody saw it as an optimal situation.

Neal wanted more apartments. Dustrud wanted a more welcoming design. Brooks wanted to keep selling flowers.

“We didn’t want to give up our corner and it turns out we didn’t have to,” Brooks told me this week, as she and her family have begun plans to finish the interior of the shell that was completed last week. “We wanted to stay, but we really didn’t want to become renters. Dan was kind to work with us.”

Florist and developer “had many discussions over many months,” Neal recalled. “The family recognized that this would be the most opportune time to sell their building, but they didn’t want to leave the location and lose their livelihood.”

Neal has formed partnerships with landowners before, but the Brooks family didn’t want to become student housing real estate investors. They also had no appetite for the personal guarantee that banks would require of all partners taking out a multi-million dollar construction loan.

Neal offered them a novel solution. He would design a building that included commercial space for a new Eugene’s Flower Home and give the family a deed for that portion of the building. “Once they heard they can hold the title to their space,” Neal said, “the conversation shifted.”

“I guess it’s legally called a condominium,” Brooks said. “It just sort of evolved. I didn’t know it was so unusual. Dan just created a situation for us so we could have what we wanted.”

The Patterson is opening this fall with 100 apartments, 67 below-grade parking spaces, three commercial storefronts, and one condominium.

Neal doesn’t know of another instance where a single tenant in a large building has negotiated for ownership of their space. I can think of only one, but it’s not in Eugene. A butcher sold his corner plot for the equivalent square footage and an equity stake in a skyscraper in downtown Tokyo.

Did a financial tool used by the Mori Building Co. to complete the Roppongi Hills complex in downtown Tokyo find its way to Eugene? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Pat Brooks, along with her children and grandchildren, can keep selling flowers from that corner — as the family has for almost 100 years. And that we have local developers creative enough to make that possible.

We always know that things will change. Sometimes we know which things we want to keep the same. Finding ways to make those two fit together is the trick, and we should be glad when it happens.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs

→ 1 CommentTags: Arr-Gee published · Civic · Small World · Urban Design · You-gene

Eugene Marathon: Focus on the Finish

August 1st, 2014 · No Comments

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Bill Bowerman introduced distance running to Americans as a participatory sport. This was a wild re-imagination of the sport itself, originating right here in Eugene. He held “all comers” meets every Saturday from Hayward Field. He never stopped reaching out to young people, introducing them to a sport that required no equipment, no rules, no special skills. Just run.

Bowerman was always teaching. Running doesn’t matter. Winning matters even less. Life is what matters, and learning to run might teach you something about life. Winning is for a few, but everybody wants to live a better life.

Vin Lananna has not just followed Bowerman. He’s reincarnated him. Using Hayward Field’s mystique, he has wooed the highest powers in the sport. He has given Eugene (again) a unique success story. He hasn’t yet turned the sport on its ear with any radical reinventions. But he’s just getting started.

I enjoyed watching the Eugene Marathon last weekend. Like so many of you, I grabbed a lawn chair and a cup of caffeine and made my way to the closest viewing spot. From my neighborhood, I can watch the runners twice. It’s just past Mile Post 2 as they head south, then it’s Mile Post 6, when they come back to the north.

As the runners headed south, what I saw was a mass of humanity — large clumps of runners hanging together. Just four miles later, the racers had sorted themselves almost to single-file status. As I watched them heading north across Amazon Park, I imagined myself in a wedding receiving line. I could look at the face of almost every runner individually, and silently thank them for coming. (It must have been a terrible wedding, though, because none of my imagined guests could get away quickly enough.)

Here I have to admit that I’ve never bothered to watch the end of the race. Why? Because I lack the endurance. The fleetest of the full marathoners begin arriving shortly after 8 a.m. After that, it’s a steady stream of finishers until darn near noon.

That’s four hours of cheering for thousands of individuals. To be able to do that, I’d have to train for months, and who has the time for that?

The start of the race is much more satisfying. Six thousand runners, responding to a single starting gun — that can take your breath away! For that brief moment, athletes and audience are all sharing the same exhilaration. It’s like attending a wedding. You can’t watch without reliving your own vows.

That got me thinking, which is what I did during gaps between guests fleeing my imaginary wedding.

Racers all wear digital watches now, measuring their progress throughout the course, trying to stay on pace to achieve their hoped-for finish time. Only the elite runners are racing against one another in a marathon. Everyone else is simply trying to better their own best time — their own best self.

Winning isn’t usually a consideration, but excellence and improvement always are.

So here’s a radical idea. What if we hosted a staggered-start marathon? It would work like this. Every racer would state their goal for a finishing time. Organizers would sort the runners by their projected finish time, starting the slowest runners first and the fastest runners last.

If every runner reached their personal goal exactly, all the runners would reach the finish line at the same time. This would give Bowerman’s ultimate participatory sport what even Bowerman didn’t devise — a made-for-TV climax.

Fans would flock to the finish line to experience the drama. The first person across the finish line wouldn’t be the winner of the race, but the person who bettered themselves the most.

Instead of sorting thousands of competitors into the Winner and Everybody Else, they would sort themselves into better and worse than they had hoped.

Bowerman believed running was just like life. Doing the best you can is what should be celebrated. Shouldn’t we stage a race that demonstrates this?

Don’t overthink running or life. Focus on the finish. Do that and you’ve already won.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs.

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